“Why should we fear the perch?” Hello? Look at the photo. OK, that’s a piranha. A smaller fish almost as scary as the yellow perch. Their role model.
Actual perch typically only reach a maximum size of about 15 in and 2.2 lb (1 kg). We may think that they are as mild-mannered as they are mild tasting. We may even think they are so different from ourselves. But we would be wrong!
Like us, perch are commonly active during the day and inactive at night, except during spawning. Like us, younger perch tend to be in schools more than older and larger fish, and males and females often form separate schools. Like us, their schools break up at dusk and reform at dawn. Like us, their schools typically are arranged by age and size.
Like us, their babies grow inside them and are born alive in a gelatinous strand of 10,000–40,000 eggs, a characteristic unique among North American freshwater fish, and all part of their strategy to eventually outnumber us.
Back on terra firma, such water births have been appropriated by hip new new-age parents-to-be, who insist on maternity bathtubs instead of beds. Just one more piscine grievance to add to the list. No wonder that underneath those clenoid scales lies a brain and a heart thirsting for revenge.
We use them as bait for walleye and largemouth bass. And how many times have we ordered the perch and chips special? Or the perch platter? We love battered perch. So is it surprising that in return these carnivores love battering us? That is why they call the yellow perch “the Shark of Lake Erie.”
But how are these deadly creatures equipped to exact their revenge? Let us focus on their lateral line system, which is sensitive to vibrations in the water, the better to locate, identify and terminate the enemy. In addition, their powerful sense of smell, located behind their lidless eyes, allows them to determine their victim’s typical diet. To this day no Vegan has ever been attacked by a perch!
With more than a billion perch in Lake Erie, there is strength in numbers. Imagine a school of half a billion situated a few yards off your bow. They know you are an unwary weekend sailor. Picture a billion fins all waving in the same direction. Picture the resulting tsunami that sends you and your Bayliner straight into Davy Jones’ Locker. Sadly, you don’t know the combination.
But the ultimate weapon in the perch repertoire is their powerful sphincter muscle, located just behind their anal fin. This muscle enables them to discharge their waste, in the form of hardened pellets, directly at an unsuspecting freighter. At close range this torpedo is capable of penetrating six inches of solid steel!
Of course the resulting hole is only one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter. But imagine half a billion such holes in a close grouping. That is why they call Lake Erie “The Graveyard of the Great Lakes”!
Oblivious bathers, beware!. Don’t ignore the yellow Perch flag flying from the lifeguard stand. Remember, perch don’t care about the lake’s bacterial levels. Lining up in the hundreds and all connected mouth to tail, they have been known to drag obese men by their Speedos, and send them to a watery grave!
But that might be considered a public service.